Monday, April 6, 2020

Book of the Week: Prairie Lotus

by Linda Sue Park

Clarion/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2020

260 pages

Ages 8-11

Hanna’s mama died when Hanna was 12. Now 15, she and Papa have left Los Angeles far behind to start over in the growing frontier town of LaForge, Dakota Territories, in 1880. Hanna has two strong desires: to get her diploma, and to make dresses for the fabric shop Papa is opening. Papa, who is white, doesn’t want Hanna to sew for the shop. He and Mama owned a dress shop, but because Mama was Chinese many assumed he married her to get free labor. Hanna knows her parents had a marriage of love and a true partnership in business, but Papa is worried what people will think. And when most of the other families pull their children out of school in protest after Hanna starts attending, Hanna isn’t sure people will even come to the shop once it opens. There are numerous similarities to Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House books here, many of them captivating. There are also critical, intentional differences. Racism on the frontier is openly acknowledged and examined through Hanna’s experiences and observations, while the Native people (Oceti Sakowin/Lakota) Hanna meets are portrayed with respect and dignity. Park writes about the Little House books, which she loved as a child, in an author’s note that begins, “I wrote Hanna’s story as an attempt at a painful reconciliation.” Familiar or not with those books, readers will find this one a deeply satisfying story with a resilient, winning protagonist. ©2020 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

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